HANA Center was created in 2017 when Korean American Community Services and Korean American Resource and Cultural Center merged, joining together with the goal of empowering Korean American and multiethnic immigrant communities through social services, education, and outreach in the Chicago area.

The organization provides critical services that range from immigration and workforce programming to housing counseling and youth organizing. HANA Center serves a broad base; while focused on empowering Korean, Asian American, and multiethnic immigrant communities, the center serves women, youth, people of color, low-income families, the elderly, LGBTQ+ individuals, and adoptees.

When it comes to housing, HANA Center provides housing counseling while also acting as a general resource hub, especially for community members who need assistance translating materials from English to their native language. Many people in need of housing assistance know there are programs that could help, but don’t know specifics or how to apply. HANA Center currently offers all their forms in English, Spanish, and Korean in an effort to make vital information more accessible. Without translated housing program materials, “they couldn’t know the details about the program. That’s how we came to know that there was a huge barrier to information access, and we developed our program from there,” says Jeonghwa Yi Boyle, Citizenship, Immigration, Legal & Housing Services Director.

HANA Center’s Housing Team doing community outreach

HANA Center partnered with the Cook County Assessor’s office to bring a property tax appeal workshop for clients

Accessibility remains a large part of the organization’s mission, and that is evident in their programmatic work. HANA Center’s HUD-certified housing counselors support limited English-speaking Korean Americans and multiethnic immigrants as they seek to obtain and keep affordable homes, with a focus on renting, foreclosure prevention, and budgeting. Counselors also assist older adults as they seek to apply for public housing for elders.

In addition to their housing counseling program, staff at HANA Center have assisted homeowners and renters in understanding and applying for the financial assistance through the Illinois Homeowner Assistance Fund and the Illinois Rental Payment Program respectively. Both of these programs were essential in helping Illinoisans throughout the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, most of their clients were those over the age of 65 years. However, as people of all ages began experiencing more financial hardship, HANA Center saw much younger individuals seeking housing services. “Our clients’ age became younger,” Yi Boyle says when discussing how HANA Center adjusted to meet needs during the pandemic. “More people are in need of assistance, and we are here to help them.”

Meanwhile, because the center provides such a broad range of services alongside their housing program, they are able to address the intersectional issues that many of their clients—regardless of age—are experiencing. Even when they do not offer a needed service in-house, they are quick to give references, guiding clients throughout the process and ensuring they receive the appropriate assistance.

All of this work ties back to HANA Center’s vision: A world with social, racial, and economic justice for all people, one that is accessible in all ways.